Prostaglandins are a type of eicosanoids and are naturally occurring hormone-like substances that participate in a wide range of body functions. They influence the contraction and relaxation of smooth muscle, the dilation and constriction of blood vessels, control of blood pressure, and modulation of inflammation.

Prostaglandins are derived from a chemical called arachidonic acid and are most known for their impact on increasing inflammation and thrombosis (clot formation).

How Dietary Fats Influence Prostaglandins

Our Paleolithic ancestors evolved on a diet with a ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 of 1:1. Our current ratio is estimated to be greater than 20:1!

This unnatural abundance of omega-6 in the diet creates a dangerous imbalance that interferes with production of important prostaglandins. Most “diseases of Westernization” can be attributed to this imbalance.

That’s because prostaglandins are the fundamental regulating molecules in most forms of life. They do not travel in the blood like hormones, but are created inside of cells and serve as catalysts for a large number of biological processes including:

  • The movement of calcium and other substances in and out of cells
  • Dilation and contraction
  • Inhibition and promotion of clotting
  • Regulation of secretions, including digestive juices and hormones
  • Control of fertility
  • Cell division and growth

Biological Roles of Prostaglandins

Let’s take a look at the very different roles of prostaglandins derived from omega-6’s versus those from omega-3’s:

Biological Effects of Prostaglandins

Series 3 Prostaglandins (from Omega-3) Series 2 Prostaglandins (from Omega-6)
Decreased platelet aggregation (blood clotting) Increased platelet aggregation (blood clotting)
Vasodilation (widening of blood vessels) Vasoconstriction (narrowing of vessels)
Anti-inflammatory effect Pro-inflammatory effect
Immune system enhancement Immune system suppression
Increased oxygen flow Decreased oxygen flow Decreased cell proliferation
Increased cell proliferation, decreased pain Increased pain
Widening of respiratory passages Narrowing of respiratory passages
Increased endurance Lowered endurance
The Prostaglandin Collection, Florida State University:

About The Author

Kelley Herring, founder of Healing Gourmet, is a natural nutrition enthusiast with a background in biochemistry. Her passion is educating on how foods promote health and protect against disease and creating simple and delicious recipes for vibrant health and enjoyment.

Kelley Herring – who has written posts on Healing Gourmet.

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